New Providence Bike Plan Wants Safer Routes

By JOANNA DETZ/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Those who had cycled to the Bike Providence Public Workshop at Exchange Terrace downtown arrived to find there was no bike rack. Instead, they made do by hitching their rides to lampposts and parking signs.

The omission of amenities such as bike racks in commercial hubs was just one of the topics discussed in the first of two workshops designed to engage the community in a new bike plan for the city.

Providence’s original bike plan was implemented in 2007 and 2008 and included signing and striping bike corridors throughout the city. The final piece of the original plan was completed in fall 2011 with the striping of bike lanes on Broadway.

This new bike plan, spearheaded by the city of Providence and Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. (VHB), an engineering firm headquartered in Waltham, Mass., is being funded with a $33,000 challenge grant from the state Department of Transportation, and will guide the investment of future funding into the city’s bicycle network through a program of recommended short-, medium- and long-term capital improvements.

Most in attendance at a Dec. 13 workshop were avid bikers who cycle daily. When asked about the biggest hurdle to biking in Providence, many in the audience jokingly called out, “hills.” But the unanimous and serious answer was “lack of safe bike routes.”

Since many of the routes that were signed and striped in the city’s original bike plan were highly trafficked roads suitable only for cyclists confident in navigating the perils of urban bicycling, the new plan is working to identify alternate routes on less-traveled roadways. Once identified, these roadways will be designated with signage as shared lanes — bikes and cars.

However, any long-term solutions, such as the addition of dedicated bike lanes, will need to be tied to the city’s $40 million road repaving project set to begin this spring.

Between now and then the city and VHB are looking to cyclists to provide input on best routes to commercial centers and hubs around the city by logging their rides using a smartphone app.

David Everett, the city’s principal planner, said the bike plan is scheduled to be completed by early spring to coincide with the beginning of the city’s repaving project.

“We want to get more people to cycle and bring biking into the mainstream as a viable form of transportation,” Everett said.